The United States, Russia and France on Thursday criticized Armenia and Azerbaijan for the lack of progress in their long-running peace talks and called for a “greater sense of urgency” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French Minister Delegate for European Affairs Bernard Cazeneuve indicated their frustration with the impasse during an OSCE ministerial meeting held in Dublin.
“We regret that the expectations of more rapid progress in the peace process, which were raised by the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with the President of the Russian Federation at Sochi on January 23, 2012, were not met,” they said in a joint statement. “Instead, the parties have too often sought one-sided advantage in the negotiation process, rather than seeking to find agreement, based upon mutual understanding.”
“We call upon the parties to demonstrate a greater sense of urgency in the peace process and to work with the Co-Chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group] to give full and careful consideration to ideas presented by the Co-Chairs during their trip to the region in November,” added the statement. It shed no light on those ideas.
The statement came as U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group held separate meetings with Foreign Ministers Elmar Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan and Edward Nalbandian of Armenian on the sidelines of the OSCE gathering. No details of those meetings were immediately made public.
Mammadyarov and Nalbandian held no face-to-face talks in the Irish capital. According to Clinton, Lavrov and Cazeneuve, they are ready to “meet jointly with the Co-Chairs early in 2013.”
The Minsk Group co-chairs visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh and met their leaders late last month. They gave no indications of any progress towards an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord.
The peace process has been effectively deadlocked since an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit that was hosted by Russia in Kazan in June 2011. President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev came close agreeing on the Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the mediators. The Kazan meeting yielded no breakthrough, however.
The Armenian side said Aliyev scuttled an agreement with last-minute demands for changes in the text of the framework peace deal put forward by the mediating powers. Baku did not explicitly deny seeking such changes, while blaming Yerevan for the fiasco.
In an op-ed article published by “The Wall Street Journal” on Thursday, Mammadyarov reiterated his government’s position that the conflicting parties should start working on a comprehensive Karabakh peace accord before ironing out their differences on its key elements.
“I suggest we move forward in Dublin and achieve progress on this issue beyond what has already been agreed with Armenia and the three OSCE co-chairs: France, the U.S. and Russia,” wrote Mammadyarov. “After drafting a comprehensive peace agreement within a fixed time frame, the OSCE should agree on a new Minsk Group meeting to be attended by all parties.”
Armenia has brushed aside this idea before. In a November 13 interview with the French daily “Le Figaro,” Sarkisian said, “Baku refuses to accept the principles proposed by the international mediators as a basis for negotiations and thinks that it is possible to directly negotiate a [comprehensive] peace accord without agreeing on the basic principles. But a peaceful accord may be viable only if it is based on clear principles acceptable to everyone.”
Speaking to “The Wall Street Journal” earlier in November, the Armenian leader claimed that Baku is waiting for “an opportune moment” to start a new war for Karabakh.
Mammadyarov insisted, however, that “Azerbaijan wants peace so that we can continue to grow our economy, develop our energy resources and advance our relations with Europe and our neighbors.” He went on to call for “an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from our territory.”